NEW DELHI — Setting a new path for cooperation with India, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday the two nations agreed on ways to expand U.S. defense and civilian nuclear sales, while acknowledging "different perspectives" on other issues such as climate change.
Clinton and Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, in a joint appearance following a day of high-level talks, pledged that future U.S.-Indian discussions would encompass a much wider scope of issues to include energy security, education, agriculture reform and counterterrorism. Clinton said it would be a "forum for action," not just talk among government leaders and bureaucrats.
"We will work not just to maintain our good relationship, but to broaden and deepen it," she told an evening news conference. "And to that end our governments have agreed to a strategic dialogue," Clinton said. She said that would include not just government officials but also business leaders, scientists, social activists, academics, leaders of charitable foundations, educators and entrepreneurs.
Krishna said the two reaffirmed a commitment to "resist the threat from the scourge of terrorism."
The expressions of goodwill on both sides stand in contrast to sharp differences on carbon emissions and whether India should be part of an international agreement setting legally binding limits on its emissions. An Indian official told Clinton in blunt terms Sunday that India won't accept such limits – a stance that jeopardizes Obama administration efforts to get a meaningful climate change accord.
At her news conference with Krishna, Clinton alluded to those divisions.
"Each of our countries, as you would expect, has different perspectives about the problems we face and how we will solve them," she said. "But as the oldest democracy and the largest democracy in the world we believe we can work through these differences in our perspectives and focus on shared objectives and concrete results."
Clinton said her talks Monday finalized two agreements. One is an Indian designation of two sites on which U.S. companies would have exclusive rights to sell civilian nuclear power reactors. That could be worth an estimated $10 billion in U.S. sales. The other deal is designed to allow the U.S. to ensure that technology in sensitive American defense items purchased by India are not transferred to third countries.
"We want to broaden and deepen our strategic understanding" and find more common ground with India, Clinton told an audience of several hundred students and faculty members at Delhi University earlier Monday.
Her trip has not gone strictly according to script: she and an Indian official had a blunt exchange on the U.S. push for India accept binding limits on carbon emissions.
Even as Clinton expressed optimism about an eventual climate change deal to India's benefit, its minister of environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh, told her: "There is simply no case for the pressure that we – who have among the lowest emissions per capita – face to actually reduce emissions."
"And as if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours," he added.
U.S. officials had expected the discussions to focus more on cooperation in related areas of energy efficiency, green buildings and clean-burning fuels.
Clinton said that Ramesh had presented a "fair argument." But she also said that India's case "loses force" because the fast-growing country's absolute level of carbon emissions – as opposed to the per capita amount – is "going up, and dramatically."
Later, at an agricultural research site in a farm field outside the capital, Clinton told reporters she is optimistic about getting a climate change deal that will satisfy India.
"This is part of a negotiation," she said. "It's part of a give-and-take and it's multilateral, which makes it even more complex. But until proven otherwise, I'm going to continue to speak out in favor of every country doing its part to deal with the challenge of global climate change."
Clinton also met Monday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss forging a more productive partnership between two countries still struggling to overcome profound distrust rooted in Cold War rivalries. The Obama administration regards India as an emerging world power and a key to turning the tide against violent Islamic extremism.
In her session with Singh, Clinton presented an Obama invitation for a state visit Nov. 24 and the prime minister accepted, Clinton aides said.
Clinton, on her fourth visit to India and her first as secretary of state, used her appearance at Delhi University to stress the importance of stepping beyond formal diplomacy to encourage U.S.-India contacts on other levels, including academic and business.
"We have to get to the real meat of the matter, and our cooperation will do that for us," she told her university audience.
On Wednesday Clinton was flying to Thailand for talks with senior government officials and to attend an international conference later in the week.